MONDAY, Oct. 20, 2008 - Daniel Raymon (Prickle in Alaska? / Energetic almost to a fault / Film figure with fangs, for short)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: CHANGE DIRECTION (38A: Take a new path ... or a hint to 20-, 36-, 41- and 57-Across) - four theme answers are the cardinal points of a compass followed by their respective anagrams
I was a bit slow on this one. Though no part of the puzzle was particularly thorny, there were a number of places where I needed multiple crosses to get answers. Always slows me down when I can't throw that first long Across answer across the grid - had the NORTH part, but at that point (early) I didn't know the theme, so 20A: Prickle in Alaska? meant nothing to me. If it had been "Prick in Alaska?," I might have had a shot. Or I might have written in TED STEVENS (buh-dum-bum - cymbal crash). BE OK (31D: "Everything will _____" ("Don't worry")) proved the hardest answer to uncover. Needed every cross, and even then, for a split second, I didn't understand. I sort of like STOCKHOLM (37D: Capital on the Baltic Sea), JIGSAW (27D: Interlocking puzzle), and DAFFODIL (40D: Flower in Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"), but otherwise, this puzzle was just OK for me. I do like that three of the five theme answers come in consecutive Acrosses in the middle of the puzzle. That seems fancy.
- 20A: Prickle in Alaska? (north thorn)
- 36A: Simmered dish in California? (west stew)
- 38A: Take a new path ... or a hint to 20-, 36-, 41- and 57-Across (change direction)
- 41A: Chair in Maine? (east seat)
- 57A: Scream in Alabama? (south shout)
This puzzle has a super-contemporary clue in 22A: 2008 film about a hunchbacked lab assistant ("Igor"), and another fresh film clue in 62A: Paul of "Knocked Up" (Rudd). Always nice to find new ways to dress up old fill like IGOR. As for RUDD ... he is handsome. The NYT puzzle once again shows itself to be in the tank for Democrats, with no references to McCain but two to revered Democratic presidents of the past - FDR (44A: Gov. Landon, who lost to F.D.R. - ALF) and Truman (24A: Mrs. Truman - BESS). While the fill on this puzzle is kind of boring, it is mercifully short on abbreviations and ugh-y xword fill. AWNS (32D: Plant bristles) and SHAY (34D: One-horse carriage) are among that large set of short words that constant solvers just have in their pockets. They aren't as common as your IGORs and your ERGOs, but they strike me as crosswordesey nonetheless. A word like PERK, however, seems fresh and lively and interesting. Maybe it's the "K." Or the fact that it rhymes with "PERT," or sounds coffee-related. I'm not sure what my point is here, so I'll just stop.
- 14A: Energetic almost to a fault (type-A) - not an answer I was looking for on a Monday, giving me a slower-than-normal NW corner.
- 45A: Film figure with fangs, for short (Drac) - alliteration! But he's originally from a book, so how about [Novel notable also known as "Nosferatu"]? I'm kidding, that's terrible.
- 60A: Pop singer Brickell (Edie) - here's the thing about EDIE Brickell. You had to be paying attention to pop music for a window of about 6 months around 1988 to know who she is from firsthand experience. I was a freshman in college, so her one big hit, "What I Am," is permanently imprinted on my brain, for better or worse.
- 58D: The Beatles' "_____ a Woman" ("She's") - see, if I'd hit college 20 years earlier, I might have had this song imprinted on my brain:
- 65A: "The Danny _____ Show" of the 1960s ("Kaye") - I thought the "of the 1960s" part of this clue was unnecessary, but I guess people need to know that it's not "The Danny Bonaduce Show"
- 50D: Mario's brother in Nintendo's Mario Bros. (Luigi) - also the name of the Italian chef on "The Simpsons"
- 54D: Medical tube (stent) - like that this has rotational symmetry with STINT in the NW (1D: Time in the army, say).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld